my soul is a woman

I was just going through some old notes and I found the notes I’d written down while reading “My Soul is a Woman” by Annemarie Schimmel, considered one of the most important Sufi texts on women and Islam. Schimmel begins by noting that we should not compare gender and women’s rights in Islam to those in Christianity or Judaism but rather by itself. I will just note a few of her interesting points:

The noun man can be used to designate any individual who earnestly strives towards God, without reference to a biological gender.

The mother motif is important in Islam: “Paradise lies beneath the feet of the mothers.”

There is no conception of original sin as being passed on by biological gender. Leila Ahmed mentions this too in Women, Gender and Islam, and I read it myself in the Qur’an: God does not solely blame Eve but rather Adam and Eve.

Khadija: she proposed to him, she was older than him, she was economically independent, she consoled him after first revelation and convinced him it was divine.

The Prophet (pbuh) set examples through his numerous marriages: he married a widow, a divorcee, a slave, etc. Yet today in most Arab/Muslim countries, divorcees for example are looked down upon and shunned (divorced women that is).

“The best among you is he who treats his wife most kindly.” (Prophet, pbuh).

“A male lion is a lion. Is that to say that a female lion is not a lion as well?” Turkish proverb quoted in book.

It is undeniable that in Islam much suffering has fallen to the lot of women because simle Qur’anic precepts have been interpreted more and more narrowly over the course of time. Customs lacking Qur’anic foundation have become increasingly rigid. Ridigity has taken on almost canonical charachter.

Most of the book deals with women in Sufi history and tradition, but it does give a lot of background info on women in Islam in general. Definitely worth skimming through.


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